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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 1 January 2013

MARY, MOTHER OF GOD: WHAT THE FATHERS SAY ABOUT CHRISTMAS, & THE MAGI WITH THEIR GIFTS abd T.S. ELIOT ON THE MAGI

my source: Mystagogy

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

- St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Ephesians)


We have, then, now stated in part, as far as it was possible, and as ourselves had been able to understand, the reason of His bodily appearing; that it was in the power of none other to turn the corruptible to incorruption, except the Savior Himself, that had at the beginning also made all things out of nought and that none other could create anew the likeness of God's image for men, save the Image of the Father; and that none other could render the mortal immortal, save our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Very Life; and that none other could teach men of the Father, and destroy the worship of idols, save the Word, that orders all things and is alone the true Only-begotten Son of the Father.

- St. Athanasius of Alexandria (On the Incarnation of the Word)


The reasons why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world are these: 1. The love of God for the human race: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). 
2. The restoration in fallen humanity of the image and likeness of God, as the holy Church celebrates it: 
"Man who, being made in the image of God, had become corrupt through sin, and was full of vileness, and had fallen away from the better life Divine, doth the wise Creator restore anew" (First Canon of Matins for the Nativity of Christ). 
3. The salvation of men’s souls: 
"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). 
And so we, in conformance with the purposes of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, should spend our life in accordance with this Divine teaching, so that through it we may obtain the salvation of our souls.

- St. Seraphim of Sarov (The Reasons Why Jesus Christ Came into the World)


Prayer to the Lord Who was Born

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Jesus, Son of the Father without mother according to divinity,
I glorify You the eternal Who is above every entreaty and word.

Jesus, Son of a Mother without father according to humanity,
I glorify You Who became man for us.

Jesus, Emmanuel unchanged, for You are the Angel-bearer of the great message of salvation,
I thank You for Your great love for man.

Jesus, spotless Lamb of God,
I ever confess You, for I am the lost sheep.

Jesus, most-compassionate Comforter,
make the grace of your Spirit to work within me.

Jesus, new Adam,
take from me the old man, and establish in me the new.

Jesus, You Who descended to earth,
make me worthy to have my habitation in the heavens.

Jesus, You Who took on human nature,
make me a partaker in the grace of theosis.

Jesus, my breath, come to visit me.


A TRUE CHRISTMAS STORY 


TAIZE YOUTH WITH THE POPE


BARLAAM AND THE THREE MAGI
By Photis Kontoglou

During the holy Nativity of Christ the heavens and the earth united. The heavens gave a Star and the Angels who glorified God with chants, and the earth gave the Panagia, and Joseph, the Shepherds and the Magi. It is a mystery how these Magi found themselves in such a deserted place, from distant Chaldea.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matt. 2:1,2)

This is what the Gospel of Matthew says. And when Herod heard that Christ was born, the king of the Jews, he thought it was an earthly king, and he feared that perhaps He would take his kingdom. He gathered all the priests and scribes, and asked them where Christ was born. And they told him:

In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matt. 2:5,6)

And Matthew goes on to write:

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matt. 2:7-12)

Who then were these Magi, and from where did they come, how did they understand what kind of star this was, and how did they know that Christ was born, since not even the king of the Jews knew? This strange history begins many long years before, around one thousand three hundred years before the Nativity of Christ. Such stories that last a thousand years before they meet their end only happen in the East.

In that ancient time, there lived in Pethor of Mesopotamia one named Balaam, son of Beor, a famous magician. The Hebrews, having left Egypt with Moses as their leader, had reached the Promised Land, after many tribulations, and battled against the many tribes that blocked their path. One of these tribes were the Moabites, who lived east of the Dead Sea; a warring people who they said were held by their neighbors the Ommin. They had at that time as their king Balak. Balak, seeing that the Israelites defeated the Amorites and Og, the king of Bashan, feared that he would not get along with the Hebrews, and sent some authorities to Balaam, to tell him how the Israelites reached his border and how their army was so large. They also begged him to go and curse them that they may be defeated, since Balak believed that whoever Balaam blessed would be victorious and whoever he cursed would be defeated.

The messangers reached the village of Balaam at night and told him why their king sent them. Balaam told them to spend the night in the village, and the next day he would tell them what God said to him. In the morning, when they awoke, Balaam told them that God commanded him to not go and curse the Israelites, because they are blessed. The Moabites left and returned to their land and told the king what Balaam told them. Balak then sent them again to the magician, to plead with him to go, promising him great honors and much wealth. However, Balaam replied that he would not go, even if the king gave him a palace full of gold, because he could not disobey the word of God. Yet God appeared to Balaam at night, and told him to go to Balak, and say only whatever He tells him.

In the morning, therefore, he saddled his donkey, and went with the Moabites and his two servants. But, as they walked, the donkey turned off from the road, and Balaam beat him with a stick he held. They arrived at a place on the road with vines, in between two dry walls, and there the donkey pressed near the wall and crushed the foot of Balaam, and he beat again him with his stick. But the donkey did not budge from the place, but even lay down, and the elder beat him angrily. Then the donkey opened its mouth, and spoke in a human voice, saying to Balaam: "What have I done that you beat me?" And Balaam said: “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” And the donkey said: "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? Therefore, it is not my fault that I do not go forward." Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw an Angel with a sword in his hand, which prevented the donkey from moving forward. Balaam bowed down and venerated him. And the Angel told him: "God sent me to oppose you. Now go with the others, for I will tell you what to say."

Therefore, reaching the land of Moab, Balak received him with honor,and they went together up to the mountain Bamoth Baal. And Balaam said: "Whatever the Lord tells me, that I will do." And seeing from afar the army of the Hebrews, he heard the voice of the Lord say to him: "Blessed are my people Israel. From their seed shall come a man who will rule many nations. Whoever blesses them, will be blessed, and whoever curses them, will be cursed." Thus Balaam blessed the Israelites. Balak became angry, though Balaam had told him that he could not but do the will of God. As one can see, Balaam was the second, after Jacob, who prophesied that Christ would be born of the Jews, according to the word of the Lord, that out of this nation would be born a Ruler who will rule the nations. His prophecy resembles the prophecy of the patriarch Jacob regarding Christ, who likened Christ with a lion, saying: "He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion - who shall rouse him up?" [Genesis 49:9] The prophecy of Balaam says: "Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like an old lion — who dares to rouse him?" [Numbers 24:9]

Such, therefore, is Balaam the seer, the forefather of the Magi who left Chaldea to worship Christ in the cave where He was born. Balaam had told his disciples that the great King would be born of the tribe of the Jews, and he told them to look to the heavens to find a new star, and if they find it, to run and follow it, and it would lead them to the place where Christ would be born [Number 24:17]. This word was kept by his disciples and remained with them one thousand three hundred years, until they saw that wondrous Star. This was not a false prophecy of the elder Balaam, but true, and when they saw the strange star, they leaped for joy, and ran to worship the Lord, who did not get bored waiting one thousand three hundred years, night by night. Oh! What patience faith has! Among the fragrant flowers of hymns, which adorn the Church on the Nativity of Christ, is this beautiful troparion, which is inspired by the history of Balaam:

O Master, by dawning as a star out of Jacob you filled with joy the watchers of the stars, wise interpreters of the words of Balaam the Seer of old, who were brought to you as first fruits of the nations; you received them openly as they offered you their acceptable gifts.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

A further note by the translator:

The true source for the Star is in the Old Testament, in Numbers 24:17, where the Seer Balaam, who came from a town on the banks of the Euphrates, utters his great prophecy, "I will point to him, but not now; I bless him, but he does not come near. A Star shall dawn from Jacob, a Man shall arise out of Israel." This is what we read in the Greek Septuagint, which is the Orthodox text. The Hebrew has, "a sceptre shall arise out of Israel". St Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho 106, cites the verse, though instead of ‘man’ he has the word ‘ruler’, which is the word used in Matthew 2:6 in the citation of Micheas. Origen links the Magi with the prophecy of Balaam, adding that the prophecy of Balaam had no doubt been preserved in the east. Eusebius does the same. St Gregory of Nyssa also links the Magi with the prophecy of Balaam. The real Star of Bethlehem is Christ himself, as St Amphilochios explains in a Christmas sermon. Saint Romanos takes this up in his Kontakion for the Nativity, Ikos 5 (the Magi are speaking):

For Balaam laid before us precisely
The meaning of the words he spoke in prophecy,
When he said that a star would dawn,
A star that quenches all prophecies and auguries;
A star which resolves the parables of the wise,
And their sayings and their riddles,
A star far more brilliant
Than the star which has appeared,
For he is the Maker of all the stars,
Of whom it was written of old,
From Jacob there dawns
A little Child, God before the ages.

It is not the weight
Of jewel or plate,
Or the fondle of silk or fur;
'Tis the spirit in which
The gift is rich
As the gifts of the Wise Ones were;
And we are not told
Whose gift was gold
And whose was the gift of myrrh.

- Edmund Vance Cooke (1909)


T.S. ELIOT READS HIS OWN POEM ON THE MAGI




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